London Telegraph (Internet / Print) 07/07/06 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/07/06/ubse.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/07/06/ixnews.html Scientists are a step closer to developing a blood test for the human form of mad cow disease - thanks in part to hamsters. Researchers revealed today that they had detected a similar disease, scrapie, in the blood of hamsters that were not showing any symptoms. Scrapie, BSE - the cattle brain disease - and vCJD - its human equivalent - are all thought to share the same infectious agents: rogue prion proteins. The new technique, protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA), causes prions to convert to the misfolded form at an accelerated rate. By "amplifying" the rogue proteins it is possible to spot the presence of infectious agents that would otherwise be undetectable. The scientists, led by Dr Paula Saa from the University of Texas in Galveston and the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in Spain, studied 46 hamsters inoculated with a preparation made from infected sheep brain.